The future of media sees agency become technology advisor
Personalisation, mobile and location-based targeting were the big themes to come from the showcase of emerging media that is mLab, while the role of media agency as educator and technology advisor becomes clear.
In its second year, the annual mLab event has fast become a key education piece through which GroupM agencies inspire and inform clients on digital media channel choices.
At Thursday’s session, MediaCom clients were presented with a taste for the possible ways their brands can connect with consumers, but also which are realistic potential choices today.
With clients exposed to just a taste of the plethora of digital options, the role of media agency as educator and technology advisor becomes clear.
Media agency as technology advisor
That education, and at a hands-on level, is the impetus for the event, says Geoff Clarke, MediaCom’s NSW managing director: “MediaCom and GroupM collectively put this on because the landscape of media and the way consumers are interacting in their own worlds has radically changed.
“Now that’s a cliché, yes, but at the end of the day there are very few events put on where we can put clients face-to-face with the technology that can influence their marketing plans,” Clarke says.
The importance of an advisory role is highlighted by the fact that, in some ways, every marketing decision today is an IT decision, says Joshua Rex, MediaCom’s head of digital: “It’s both an opportunity and a challenge that we face. There’s no doubt digital has led to a proliferation in the number of ways we can connect with audiences, so technology, like it or hate it, is at the heart of communication today.
“A lot of what vendors are presenting [at mLab] are ways in which content or communications can be delivered to audiences in a seamless way, in a non-interruptive fashion, and I think that’s the opportunity technology has: to better personalise content and deliver it in a way that is more in line with our day to day habits and, quite frankly, in a less disruptive fashion,” Rex says.
But growth in digital choices isn’t necessarily at the expense of those that already exist. Clarke says traditional channels and traditional ways of communicating are still going to be central to a media agency’s role: “I don’t think anyone is proposing that we walk away from such platforms as television because television reaches so many people, and their relationship with that medium is always going to be very, very strong. What we’re ultimately saying is that system is getting more complex so the way clients have to spend their money is becoming more complex.
“Things like mass personalisation are going to become even more important, as marketers have a limited investment they are allocated each year so every single dollar they spend needs to be spent attracting and targeting that consumer.
“In a way we are technology consultants, because there’s so much technology out there, the skill sets we’re bringing in to the media communications business now is very different to what we didi a few years ago. But with all that technology out there it is our job to digest what that is. Is there a real benefit for our client, and then advising them – ‘This looks sexy but isn’t going to deliver you any value,’ or ‘This platform over here is going to make a real difference.
“The beauty of it is that of all these technology choices out there, one piece might not work for one client, but is certainly going to work for another client. We’re very much able to decide with our clients together, what piece of technology is going to work and what piece of technology is not.
“So in a way, yes, we are technology consultants. That’s one small aspect of everything we do for our clients.”
One such client is Westpac, a relationship which Karen Ganschow, the bank’s general manager of customer relationship marketing, describes as very much a partnership. “We now put everything through MediaCom, from TV, outdoor, search, display, performance display, to social media buys.
“The whole point is that we want them to help us understand this exploding ecosystem and work with us on emerging pilots and tests with new platforms, while we make sure that what we know works continues to work.”
Highlights from the floor
Some of the new tech that could be piloted by brands was on display by the media owners and technology start-ups showcased at mLab. Below is a summary of what was on show.
Shazam’s call for silence
Finding fame as an app for identifying music, Shazam’s role as a platform for brands to leverage evolved first through Shazam-able TVCs, presenting users with brand content and offers.
It currently reports 2.5 million users in Australia.
The next pitch from the platform is for marketers to make their physical environments Shazam-able. In practice, that means filling a retail store or otherwise branded environment with ultrasonic sounds, allowing visitors to use the Shazam app to link through to content. Mobile. Location.
SCA’s connected car
Digital radio means an IP address. And that means data. Digital radio through a car’s on-board computer means data ranging from location to social logins, profile pics and interests, and more. The 17-inch touchscreen of the Tesla on display in Southern Cross Austereo’s exhibit hammered the point home that the automobile is going to be the next major personal computing device.
On display was advanced geo-location and mapping tools, including a real-time visualisation of digital radio listeners on the network. SCA’s ‘InStream’ product can allow advertisers to target the audiences of broadcast radio with contextual and personalised advertisements. Mobile. Location. Personalisation.
Pandora’s Music Genome Project
Since its 2000 launch, Pandora has been working on what it calls the ‘Music Genome Project’. In effect, that means analysing, categorising and tagging every song based on dozens of factors.
In Australia, it now reports two million users.
The next big opportunity here for Pandora, and for brands is, again, the automobile: where the majority of people’s passive listening takes place.
And, in case you were wondering, Pandora is very different to Spotify, a point its MD Jane Huxley made sure to reinforce. Where Spotify is a streaming music library that a more advanced music lover peruses and selects from, Pandora is internet radio, which a passive music listener turns on and receives whatever music the Genome Project calculates he or she will like.
News Corp goes sideways
Or, rather, its audience consumes content sideways. ‘The Sideways Experience’ is News Corp’s way of saying that readers/listeners/viewers don’t consumer a newspaper/TV show/YouTube clip from cover to cover, start to finish, but come to it from various angles, such as reading an article on a site they’d never visit directly through social links, or watching a TV show in the evening that they’d teed up from their mobile phone in the coffee queue that morning.
What that means for New Corp’s pitch to advertisers is social and mobile content experiences that look and feel like the social network from which they’ve come, location-based analytics and Wi-Fi serving of stackable content that can link to local mobile commerce interactions, as well as push notifications of content via the tablet and smartphone apps of the company’s mastheads.